Doc Bob

Is Our Salvation Eternal?

 Doctrine  Comments Off on Is Our Salvation Eternal?
Oct 112011
 

The table below came from a handout from Dan Hall at the first Witnesses Now for Jesus conference that I attended back in 1998. I’ve used it here with his permission.

When we are saved,  we are: When we sin,  does God:
Reconciled to God
Romans 5:10 – ” For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more,  having been reconciled,  we shall be saved by His life”
Un-reconcile us?
Justified
Romans 3: 23, 24 – “for all has sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”
Un-justify us?
Totally forgiven
Colossians 2:13 – “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.”
Un-forgive us?
Totally cleansed
1 Cor 6:11 – “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”Titus 3:5 – “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit”
Un-cleanse us?
Made holy and blameless
Colossians 1:22 – “yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach”
Take back our holiness and blamelessness?
Clothed with Christ
Galatians 3:27 – “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ”
Rip off our “Christ clothes”?
Sealed in Christ
Eph 1:13, 14 – “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory”
Break the seal of Christ?
Take back the pledge of our inheritance?
Given Christ’s righteousness
2 Cor 5:21 – “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him”
Take away Christ’s righteousness?
Reborn by the Spirit of God
1 Pet 1:3 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
Reverse our being reborn?
Indwelt by the Holy Spirit
Romans 8:9 – “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him”
Take back the Holy Spirit?
Indwelt, Made into a new creation
2 Cor 5:17 – “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.”
Make us back into an old creation?
Made a child of God
John 1:12, 13 – “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become Children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
Deny that we are His children?
Adopted into God’s family
Romans 8:15 – “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out ‘Abba! Father!'”
Un-adopt us?
Made heirs of God
Gal 4:7 – “Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son then an heir through God.”
Take back our inheritance?
In fellowship with God
1 Cor 1:9 – “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord”
Disfellowship us?
Given every spiritual blessing
Eph 1:3 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”
Take back every spiritual blessing?
Written down in the book of life
Phil 4:3 -” Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, who names are in the book of life.”
Erase our name from the book of life?

 

“What Assurance of Salvation Does For Us”

“The Holy Spirit assures us that God is our Father and loves us. God has poured out his love into our hearts. (Rom. 5:5) Romans 8:15-16 says that when we cry “Abba, Father,” the Holy Spirit is witnessing to our spirit that we are God’s children. Few experiences can provide more power in our lives than to have the assurance of salvation. Think of what it could do for us:

  • We would be joyous in our service for God, but not driven in our works, or mistaken in the notion that our works would save us.
  • We would be delivered from frantic preoccupation with taking our spiritual temperature minute by minute.
  • We would be free and spontaneous in our witness, exercising patience, and understanding as well as speaking with conviction and challenge.
  • We would not get overwrought with our friends about future security, for we would be assured of our present relationship with Christ – who loves us with an immeasurable love.

“This We Believe” pp 201,202

Oct 072011
 

The rumor has been going around that this will be the last Witnesses Now For Jesus (WNFJ) conference. The truth is that, while this is the last year that the WNFJ conference will be hosted by Joan Cetnar, the conference will continue with substantially the same format.

At the morning session of the WNFJ today, Erich Grieshaber announced that not only will the conference continue, but plans are being made to expand the ministry of WNFJ. Erich announced the team that has been assembled to build this ministry. Different members of the team will specialize in website and social media, music ministry, and education. More details will be available on a soon to be launched website.

Feb 272011
 

Those Jehovah’s Witnesses who claim to be of the 144,000 refer to themselves by many titles: the remnant, the faithful and discreet slave, and the anointed to name a few. I say that they refer to themselves by these titles because the governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses who claim to be the spokesman for the 144,000 teaches that it is the remnant of the 144,000 in their role as the faithful and discreet slave who are responsible for the teachings put forth in the pages of The Watchtower and other publication of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. So when Watchtower publications speak of the faithful and discreet slave or the remnant or the anointed, the writers are referring to themselves.

Knowing that the words “Christ” and “Messiah” mean “anointed” and having taken this title on themselves certainly puts those self-proclaimed “anointed” Jehovah’s Witnesses in quite an elevated position. In fact they at one time, taught that they themselves plus Jesus Christ constituted a composite Christ:

“Messiah’s kingdom once established, Jesus and his glorified church constituting the great Messiah, shall minister the blessings to the people they have so long desired and hoped for and prayed might come.” – Millions Now Living Will Never Die, 1920, p 88

“The word Christ signifies anointed. Anointing means designation to official position in God’s arrangement. The Christ is the instrument or channel for the blessing of mankind. The Christ is composed of Jesus the great and mighty head, and 144,000 members.” – The Harp of God, 1921, p 187

“The new creation is The Christ. The Christ is a composite body made up of many members. The Head of The Christ is Jesus Christ, God’s beloved Son. Those who are taken from amongst men, justified, begotten and anointed by the spirit of Jehovah, and who then continue faithful unto death, will constitute the members of The Christ complete.” – Creation, 1927, p 192

While they no longer claim to be part of a “composite Christ”, in more recent times, this self-styled ‘anointed’ have proclaimed that in order to keep in a good relationship with God, one must remain united with them.

“To keep in relationship with ‘our Savior, God,’ the ‘great crowd’ needs to remain united with the remnant of spiritual Israelites.” – The Watchtower, November 15, 1979, p. 27

And finally they tell the other sheep that that attitude toward them (the “anointed”) and how they treat them will be the determining factor in their judgement by Christ.

“Your attitude toward the ‘wheatlike anointed brothers’ of Christ and the treatment you accord them, will be the determining factor as to whether you go into ‘everlasting cutting-off’ or receive ‘everlasting life’.” – The Watchtower, August 1, 1981, p. 26)

Notice in these quotes from the Watchtower that the “anointed” soften the blow of their words by referring to themselves in the third person. If you take the third-person speech out of that last quote, these who claim to be the ‘faithful slave’ are really saying:

“Your attitude toward the US and the treatment you accord US, will be the determining factor as to whether YOU go into ‘everlasting cutting-off’ or receive ‘everlasting life’.”

Similar Art Styles or Plagiarism – Which?

 Organization  Comments Off on Similar Art Styles or Plagiarism – Which?
Nov 142010
 
On a trip to my local old bookstore, I came across a set of Bible story books with illustrations that looked very much like what I have seen in Watchtower Society publications for the past several years. A friend had told me about these books and gave me some references to some pictures that appear to have been plagiarized. Shown below are three examples:

Birds

The first set is two pictures of birds, both from illustrations in two different books that depict a scene from the Garden of Eden.

The illustration on the left is from The Bible Story by Arthur S. Maxwell (Review and Herald Publishing Association 1955) Volume 1, Page 52


The one on the right is from My Book of Bible Stories (Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. 1978) Story number 3. Notice that the Watchtower’s birds are an almost exact mirror image of those from Maxwell’s.

Esau

The second set of illustrations show Esau as a young boy, standing in front of a tent, about to shoot an arrow.
esaumaxThe left picture is from Maxwell”s The Bible Story (Volume 2, Page 8 )

esauwtThe picture to the right is from the Watchtower’s My Book of Bible Stories (Story number 17).Aside from minor positioning and the Watchtower”s depiction of Esau a bit stockier, the boys are the same. Even the tent in the background is very similar. Notice that both tents have stripes going in the same direction and the positions of the two peaks of each tent in relation to Esau.

Sampson

Finally, here are two illustrations of Sampson fighting a lion.
sammaxThe one on the left is from Maxwell’s The Bible Story (Volume 3, Page 131)

samwtThe image on the right is from the Watchtower’s My Book of Bible Stories (Story number 54).

Here again, we see the Watchtower’s version of this picture is a mirror image of Maxwell’s, right down to the red shirt and headband. Notice the positions of Sampson and the lion, the positions of Sampson’s hands in relation to the lion.


Since The Bible Story was published in 1955 and the Watchtower published My Book of Bible Stories in 1978, I have to conclude that the Watchtower either plagiarized from Maxwell or both Maxwell and the Watchtower plagiarized from another source.

At this point, I feel compelled to quote from the January 15, 1954 The Watchtower (page 38). In an article entitled “Do You Respect Plagiarists?”, The Watchtower accuses a New York minister of the Churches of Christ named Antonio Ochoa of plagiarizing artilces in The Watchtower and Awake! and published them in the Churches of Christ paper Gospel Broadcast.

WHAT do you think of a man that lifts articles from one magazine and has them published in another magazine? What do you think when he attaches his name as author of the stolen articles? What do you think of him when he continues to do it after he has been caught and has promised to quit? And does the fact that he claims to be a minister of religion shock you still more?

I might ask readers of the Watchtower – What do you think of an organization that lifts pictures from one book and with only minor adjustments has them published in another? What do you think when that organization attaches its name to the stolen pictures? And does the fact that that organization claims to be Jehovah”s channel of communication with mankind today shock you still more?

Again, what do you think of the magazine that uses the plagiarized articles? What do you think of the judgment of such a magazine when it denounces as false another magazine, then turns around and prints as truth the articles plagiarized from it? What do you think of the editor that tells the injured magazine its word is worthless when it brings the plagiarism to his notice? What do you think of him when he ignores the proof sent to him? What do you think when his magazine continues to use the stolen articles? And does not the fact that this magazine poses as Christian make the plagiarism even more reprehensible?

Since The Bible Story was published by someone other than the Watchtower, they are considered by the Watchtower to be part of Babylon the Great, the great harlot, denounced as false by the Watchtower. So, readers of the Watchtower, what do you think of the judgement of the publishers of a book that plagiarizes from sources it considers part of Babylon the Great? And does not the fact that this book poses as Christian make the plagiarism even more reprehensible?

Can you have confidence in such a writer? or in the magazine that uses his plagiarized copy? or in the editor that directs it? Consider the facts, then form your opinion.

Yes, consider the facts, then form your opinion.

Matthew 12:37 (New World Translation): for by your words you will be declared righteous, and by your words you will be condemned.”

 

Jan 302010
 

Propriety is something very important within the Jehovah’s Witness culture and worship as it should be. But, the Witnesses take it to a whole new level. Many things that are part of Christian worship in other churches are viewed by Jehovah’s Witnesses as inappropriate and are noticeably absent at the Kingdom Halls of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Among these things that you will not see at Kingdom Halls are live musicians: no organists, no pianists and certainly no guitarists or drummers. Years ago, live pianists were at least an option. My wife used to play the piano at our Kingdom Hall and for the circuit assemblies. On a few occasions we even had a small orchestra at our circuit assembly. For congregations without a pianist, records and later cassette tapes and CD’s were available. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, there seemed to be a concerted effort by the circuit overseers to remove pianos and pianists from the Kingdom Halls and to utilize the recordings that were supplied by the Watchtower Society.

Several reasons were given for removing the pianos and pianists. First was that in some congregations the quality of the piano or that of the pianist was not up the standard that would be honoring to Jehovah. Second was that using the Society’s recordings contributed to unity within the organization. Finally, it was said that having live music might draw undue attention to the musician rather than to Jehovah. Today, all of the music for Jehovah’s Witness meetings are recordings that are supplied by the Watchtower Society. Along with the music, the content for the meetings is also supplied by headquarters as are the song numbers that are to accompany that content.

During the singing at the Kingdom Hall, you will also see no raising of hands or other expressions of worship that are seen in many churches. There are also no spontaneous expressions of agreement during the sermon, which is referred to as the “public talk” or “public discourse”. The only  “amen” you will normally hear at the Kingdom hall is at the end of the prayers that are said at the beginning and end of each meeting. Raising of hand in worship and saying “amen” during the public talk would be viewed as  inappropriate by the Witnesses.

As I see it now, what is called worship at the Kingdom Hall is very restrained, mostly devoid of emotion, and dry and dead.

Nov 212009
 

I generally avoid using terms such as mind control cult when talking  about Jehovah’s Witnesses, but every so often the writers of the Watchtower publish something that makes it hard not to. Although I was a Jehovah’s Witness for over two decades and have been out now for over a dozen years, it still amazes me the degree to which Witness leadership seeks to exercise control over their followers.

The November 15, 2009 Watchtower study article (page 6 par 19) contains an example of this:

When we are being represented in public prayer, we need to display reverential “fear of God.” (1 Pet 2:17) There may be a proper time and place for some actions that would be inappropriate at a Christian meeting.(Eccl 3:1) For instance, suppose someone sought to have all in a group link arms or hold hands during prayer. This might offend or distract some, including visitors who do not share our beliefs. Some marriage mates might discreetly hold hands, but if they embraced each other during public prayer, those who got a glimpse of such conduct might be stumbled. They might think or get the impression that the couple was focusing on their romantic relationship instead of reverence for Jehovah. Out of deep respect for him, let us therefore “do all things for God’s glory” and avoid conduct that could distract, shock or stumble anyone.- 1 Cor 10:31,32; 2 Cor 6:3.

The first step to understanding this paragraph is grasping the concept of “being represented in prayer.” Not all Jehovah’s Witnesses are allowed to pray at meetings. Only “spiritually mature” men are allowed to open or close meetings with prayer lest some spiritually less mature man (or God forbid, a woman) might say something not in keeping with current Witness teaching or something that is otherwise inappropriate.

The idea of being stumbled over one thing or other is a common theme in Jehovah’s Witness teaching and culture. Jehovah’s Witness leadership take perfectly valid warnings about stumbling from Jesus and Paul and effectively employ them to their own ends. If they want to prevent the rank and file Witness from engaging in some practice or from adopting some form of dress or grooming, all they have to do is mention that someone might be stumbled over it. By doing that, they implicitly give permission for all Jehovah’s Witnessnes to be stumbled over it. At that point all the true Witnesses will refrain from that behavior.

By doing it that way they have effectively banned the practice or mode of dress without doing so explicitly. They have avoided the appearance of a mind control cult while exercising  the same amount of control over their followers as would any cult.

Nov 032009
 

In their sixth and final point, the writers of the Awake! article tell us:

6. When the laity are Biblically uniformed, they can be easily be misled by clerics. Indeed, history contains may examples of such abuses.

I have to agree with this point. I agree that Biblically uninformed and misinformed Jehovah’s Witness laity have been mislead by their clergy – both paid and unpaid. Now, having said that, I will say that this point is really moot. Whether we are Jehovah’s Witnesses or Congregationalists or Baptists or Methodist or are non-denominational, we need to take responsibility for our own Biblical literacy. If we abdicate that responsibility and leave it to others whether it be an organization or elders or pastors, we are just setting ourselves up for failure and disappointment.

The problem with the Jehovah’s Witnesses is that they are taught that the way to be Biblically informed is to stick with the organization’s program of “Bible” study. The organization does not really foster spiritual growth, but keeps its adherents in a perpetual state of spiritual immaturity and spiritual dependence on the organization for their spiritual food. The same does happen within Christendom, but only within very unhealthy churches. There are a lot of very healthy churches out there and I have been blessed to have been able to fellowship with many of them. Those healthy churches foster spiritual growth in the individual Christian and within the church as a whole. While the scene in Christendom is not perfect, it is not nearly as bad as the writers of the Watchtower and Awake would like to paint it.

Oct 282009
 

In the third and fourth points that they present, the writers of the Awake! article bring up the subject of finances and the clergy. First, point number three:

3. A paid clergy class can impose a heavy financial burden on the laity, especially when the former have lavish lifestyles.

This is a sweeping generalization that was presented with neither evidence nor example. How many of the clergy really have lavish lifestyles? Yes there are a few. In 2007, accusations of financial improprieties spawned an investigation of TV preachers including Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, Eddie Long, Joyce Meyer and Paula White by Senator Charles Grassley who is the ranking Republican on the Seanate Finance Committee. But are these really typical of the clergy? Clergy such as those being investigated by Senator Grassley are very rare. Most clergy are not on television and do not enjoy a lavish lifestyle.

Rather than relying on generalizations based on a small minority, I did some research on just how much pastors in mainline denominations are paid. The Massachusetts United Church of Christ’s “Clergy Compensation Booklet” for the year 2000 contains salary guidelines for 2001. The salary guidelines range from $24,000 – 36,000 per annum for a pastor with 0-3 years experience serving in a church with 0-150 members to $45,000 to $67,500 per annum for a pastor with over 10 years experience in a church with over 1000 members1. The Illinois UCC guidelines for 2009 call for a base salary for a newly graduated pastor serving a church of up to 75 attendance of $32,130 and up to $46,130 for a pastor of 15 years experience serving a church of 400+ average weekly attendance2. Salaries such as these will hardly support a lavish lifestyle.

In an ancillary point, the writers try to draw a distinction between Christian clergy and Jehovah’s Witness overseers.

Christian overseers, on the other hand, care for their financial needs by doing normal secular work, thus setting a good example for others.

It is true that elders in local congregations are not paid. But neither are the elders in most churches that I know of.

The “Christian overseers” that are mentioned here evidently do not include circuit and district overseers and members of the branch committees and the governing body. All these are compensated for their work as overseers and are not engaged in any sort of secular work.

The circuit overseer is the overseer that the rank and file Jehovah’s Witnesses are most familiar with. He visits each congregation about twice a year, each visit lasting a week.  At the end of each visit, the circuit overseer submits his expenses for the week to the congregation he is visiting and they reimburse him for those. He is also provided with a monthly stipend, a leased car (a Buick, last I knew), health insurance, and housing. And, as I mentioned earlier, these are members of the Order of Special Full-Time Servants and as such have taken a Simple Vow of Poverty which allows them to receive their compensation and other contributions from congregations and their members tax-free.

Along with their monthly stipend, their leased car and their other benefits, circuit overseers are often greeted by some in the congregations with the “green handshake”.  I knew of a couple of families in my old congregation who would slip the C.O. a hundred at each visit – tax-free, of course.

Bivocational Pastors

A phenomenon among Christian denominations that goes almost without notice by the Jehovah’s Witnesses is that of bivocational pastors. These are pastors that also have secular jobs. Now that I have looked into this, I’ve found there are more of them than I ever realized. There are enough among Southern Baptist churches that there is a Southern Baptist Bivocational Ministers Association. In a 2002 press release “Bivocational Ministry Emerging As Option” that organizations says “In fact, only 60-65 percent of churches have what bivocational ministers prefer to call “fully funded” pastors.”

I work with two bivocational pastors. Both have challenging positions as engineers where we work along with their pastoral duties. I was recently chatting with one of them about his schedule. He works secularly from 9:00 to 5:00 (or later) then his pastoral appointments begin at 6:30 PM and his day doesn’t end until midnight or 1 AM. Then of course, Sunday is extremely busy.

Point number 4 that the writers of the Awake! article raised speaks to the motivation of the clergy.

4. Because a clergyman may depend on others for financial support, he might be tempted to dilute the Bible’s message in order to please the parishoners.

Yet another generalization that is presented without any evidence. This is an assertion that they have made before, but with no examples. While this may occur, is it really the norm? I would say that it is much more common that a Jehovah’s Witness elder would be careful to preach and teach what he was expected to knowing that to do otherwise could cost him his family and friends rather than a few bucks.

In summary, while the Jehovah’s Witness leadership and those who write for them attempt to call into question the motives and work of the clergy, from what I have seen, most of them are people who are answering a calling to their ministries and working hard to do with is right.

  1. Clergy Compensation Booklet, Third Edition, Commission for Leadership Development, Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ, 2000 []
  2. 2009 Guidelines for the Call and Support of Ministry Leadership, The Ottawa Table of the Illinois Conference UCC []
Oct 102009
 

Now, let’s get back to the article in the August, 2009 issue of “Awake!”

The article raises 6 points where they say that the churches have deviated from the Bible and where harm has been the result. The first point reads:

1. The separation of a clergy class implies that one must have a special calling to be a minister of God. Yet, the bible says that all true Christians should serve God and praise his name. (Romans 10:9, 10) As for ministering within the congregation, Christian men in general are encouraged to reach out for the privilege, which is the custom among Jehovah’s Witnesses. – 1 Timothy 3:1

The clergy-laity distinction does not imply anything like that. It does imply that different people are called to different kinds of ministries, some of which involve leadership. This is what Ephesians 4:11 tells us. :

Eph 4:11 (NASB) – And He gave some {as} apostles, and some {as} prophets, and some {as} evangelists, and some {as} pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

And while we are on the subject of callings and ministries, let’s also include the fifth point that the writers of the Awake! article make. I think it is very closely related to the first:

5. The clergy-laity distinction tends to cause lay people to relegate religion to the clergy, while the laity just turn up for weekly services.

While this may be the case in some churches, it is very different from what I see in the churches where I am involved. The pastors are not the only ones involved in ministry. Lay people serve as Sunday school teachers, ushers and greeters.  Others are involved in music and technical ministries. At my church, we recently had several of  our youth travel to the mid-west to minister to the elderly in a nursing home, another group went on a short-term mission to Guatemala and last Sunday we heard from a woman in our church who had traveled  to Ethiopia to minister to orphans there.

Besides those ministries that are more or less tied to a church, there are many other opportunities for ministry within various communities. For several years I was involved in the Christian Motorcyclists Association. CMA is one of several  ministries that serves the motorcycle community. A few years ago, I came across 8 different ministries at Bike Week in Laconia NH. There are also aircraft, boating, hiking and various sports related ministries where Christians minister to others within the community of the sport or activity they enjoy.

Along with all that there are also ministries that reach out to people of various professions, ages and ethnicities.

From what I have seen, the churches that are thriving are the ones where the clergy actively encourage the laity to be involved in various ministries. Many churches will periodically have ministry fairs where each ministry has a table or a booth where members of the congregation can find out more about the ministry and how they can be involved.

But all of this ministry activity by lay people in churches receives scant attention from the writers of Watchtower publications.

In the next part we will cover what the Awake! article says about the clergy and finances.

Sep 012009
 

Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Have Clergy?

As we examine what the Jehovah’s Witness’ leadership have to say about the clergy of the Christian churches, we need to look at whether or not they have their own clergy.

Part of their criticism of the clergy is that they constitute a class that is exalted above the laity. Watchtower publications will tell you that Jehovah’s Witnesses are a classless society and that all Jehovah’s Witnesses are ordained ministers, becoming such at their baptism as Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Although all baptized Jehovah’s  Witnesses are ordained ministers, their leadership is very hierarchical. The Jehovah’s Witness organization is organized geographically into zones, branches, districts, circuits and congregations with zones covering the largest area and congregations the smallest. In each division there are those who hold positions of oversight. The governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses oversees the whole organization.

Having served as a congregation elder for 10 years and now having been involved in other churches, it seems to me that the congregation elders, circuit overseers, district overseers, branch overseers and the governing body constitute a clergy class. While congregation elders are unpaid, all the others are compensated monetarily and with other benefits such as health insurance, leased cars and living expenses.

Overseers other than congregation elders are also members of the Order of Special Full-Time Servants and as members of this religious order have taken a Simple Vow of Poverty which allows them to receive their compensation and other contributions from congregations and their members tax-free.

While congregation elders are not paid, I would say that they are, in effect, clergy. They are said to be appointed by holy spirit, they hold ecclesiastical tribunals to decide judicial matters, the rest of the congregation are bound to support the decisions of these tribunals while not being privy to the evidence, and they are provided material by headquarters  that is not provided to the rest of the congregation.

Jehovah’s Witnesses and Clergy Privilege

Despite their proclaiming that they have no clergy class, congregation elders have on several occasions invoked clergy privilege when called upon to testify against child molesters in their midst.  Such was the case near me in New Hampshire when congregation elders refused to testify in the cases of  Gregory Blackstock and Paul Berry.

So, they try to have it both ways. On the one hand they want to allow some of their leaders to enjoy the privileges that accrue to the clergy of other religious organizations, such as tax advantages and clergy privilege, while on they other hand they try to characterize their leaders as not being “clergy” in order to differentiate themselves from the churches of Christendom. As with so many other areas with Jehovah’s Witnesses, it is a distiction without a difference.